BOULDER, Colo. — Nebraska's seventh straight football victory started like most of the other triumphs, a mountain of experience.
But before the Cornhuskers left with a 33-10 victory over Colorado Saturday they had been through their most grueling experience since the UCLA opener.
Off and flying toward a rout with a 19-0 lead in the first three possessions, the Huskers watched . . . almost helplessly . . . as the Buffs cut the lead to 19-10 at the half — and narrowly missed making it 19-13 on a field goal.
Though the Buffs hung on doggedly in the last half, the Huskers put the game out of reach by scoring on drives of 77 and 44 yards the first two times they got the ball.
By that time, the Blackshirts, stung by the first points against them in five games, shut off the Bison, who were trying for their second major upset on Folsom Field in three weeks.
During the second half, the Buffs got only 77 yards, 70 of them coming on one drive that fizzled at the N.U. six with 10 minutes to play.
Johnny Rodgers, who hadn't scored against Colorado in two previous games, counted twice and shattered the theory that John Stearns' punts were unreturnable.
The Jet toted five for 144 yards and had another 58-yard dazzler nullified because of a penalty.
Rodgers, who puts more moves on defenders in five yards than most returners do in a lifetime, also had the Big Eight reception record the first three times he got his hands on the ball.
In two years of punting, Stearns' kicks had been returned for only a total of 53 yards.
What looked like a defensive gem, a partially blocked punt by Steve Manstedt, turned this game around late in the first quarter.
The Huskers, who had stopped the Buffs with 11 yards in 10 plays, had a 19-0 lead and had forced the punt.
But instead of Manstedt's alert deflection giving the Huskers possession in Colorado territory, the Buffs got the ball. Tackle Bill Janssen tried to scoop the ball at the C.U. 41, but Chuck Mandril, senior from Wheatridge who later suffered a shoulder dislocation, got the ball.
In nine plays, including a fourth-down-and-one gamble at midfield, Colorado had a score to end a string of 17 consecutive scoreless quarters by the N.U. defenders.
Nebraska had lost its momentum by then. The Huskers, who had blistered the Buffs for 155 yards in the first quarter, suffered through their most frustrating period since the opening game.
Four plays resulted in losses, another was a pass interception, the 11th of the year by soph sensation David Humm, and another was a fumble by Gary Dixon, who despite the bobble enjoyed the most productive day of his career.
Following the interception, Cullen Bryant's seventh of the year, Fred Lima, the native of Chile, booted a 44-yard field goal.
Then Rick Stearns covered Dixon's fumble at the N.U. 46. On the final play of the half, Lima's 52-yard field goal was so close that the stubby specialist protested the ball as he left the field.
Bob Devaney's half-time oratory must have cured the ills of the Huskers.
They came back with the third-quarter kickoff for a 77-yard match, with Rodgers running off left tackle from the pro set formation for his first touchdown at the expense of the Coloradans N.U. went the route by using only one pass and that for only five yards. The longest production was a nine-yard run by Jeff Moran.
Another big play man was Jim Branch, who stopped Buffalo Bo Matthews on a fourth-down gamble at the Colorado 44 on the next series.
The Buffs still had fire in their eyes as they made a first down and had ideas for a second when Branch, a lightweight linebacker from Chicago, met Matthews head-on.
In just four plays, Nebraska had touchdown despite two setbacks of five yards for illegal motion. The Huskers had reached the one on an explosive burst of 18 yards right up the middle by Dixon.
Rodgers grabbed a Humm pass for the 11-yard touchdown, his 13th score of the season and 31st of his career.
The third-ranked Huskers shut off Charlie Davis, the C.U. speedster, with 17 yards in eight carries.
In fairness to Davis, it should be reported he had ill effects from a collision with a television camera truck in the Oklahoma game two weeks ago. He had some truck-like collisions with the Blackshirts Saturday.
Nebraska drove 54 yards the first time it got the ball, with Humm passing 15 and 20 yards to Rodgers for the big bites.
Humm burrowed in behind Mike Beran from the one for the touchdown with 10:33 left in the opening period.
Manstedt, an eager young man from Wahoo, Neb., set up the next N.U. score when he collided with Matthews at the Colorado 17-yard line, forcing a fumble.
Dave Mason covered the ball and on the fifth play Dixon scored from the one. Dixon, whose best previous day this year produced 65 yards, barreled over Lorne Richardson at the one for the score, his first since the first period of the Missouri game.
Richardson sailed through to block Rich Sanger's conversion and it was 13-0 with 7:27 to go in the initial quarter.
Once more the Blackshirts shut down the Buff offense and forced a kick. The 45-yarder was a towering boot and Rodgers had no choice but to fair catch that one.
On the first play, Humm lofted a 34-yard pass to Rodgers. The reception gave Johnny 133 catches to break the Big Eight record set by Iowa State's Otto Stowe in 1970.
Bill Olds cruised 17 yards and the Huskers moved to the one from where the burly fullback scored the third straight one-yard touchdown. Olds was pinned down short of the goal on a bid for a two-point conversion.
No one in the Husker following of some 3,500 seemed to care at that point.
When Colorado got new life on the fumbled punt, the Buffs took it on in to score. The final 18 yards came on a bruising, 18-yard run by the 229-pound Matthews, who ran over George Kyros en route.
But the Buffs had just one more sustained drive and that one ended at the six when Kyros batted down a fourth-down pass in the end zone.
Nebraska's ground game notched 219 yards despite the Buffalo-hide toughness of Bud Magrum, an 18-tackle defender.
Dixon, stubby Oxnard, Calif., senior, carried 19 times for 94 yards, the best by a Husker rusher this season. His stand-in, Moran, a soph. from Huron, S.D., contributed 49 yards. Olds, also enjoying his best day, had 76.
The Blackshirt charge was led by Branch, who had 10 tackles and broke up one pass. None of his stops was more important than the one on Matthews in the third quarter.
Nebraska put an end to any glimmering hopes that Colorado might have had for the conference title and now goes to Iowa State where it hopes to deal similar woes to the Cyclones.
|Yards per carry||2.6||4.2|
Nebraska is 49-20 all-time against Colorado.
|Texas A&M||Sept. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
|Iowa State||Nov. 11|
|Kansas State||Nov. 18|
|Notre Dame||Jan. 1|
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